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Gymnastics scandal: Larry Nassar accusers say MSU partially to blame

Posted: 5:58 PM, Mar 27, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-28 13:14:24Z

When some of the greatest U.S. Olympians of the last 25 years were in pain, Larry Nassar was the man that would fix it. For gymnasts like Kerri Strug in 1996 to McKayla Maroney in 2014, it was Nassar’s healing touch that helped the U.S. take home gold.

But now, we are learning about the pain Larry Nassar is alleged to have inflicted: secretly and repeatedly, say his accusers, for decades.

“He was the doctor that went to the Olympics with all the gymnasts, and as a young gymnast, that’s your dream,” recalls Larissa Boyce, a former patient of Nassar’s.

“You want to go the Olympics, so why wouldn’t you go with this man who works with all the Olympians?  He was a God to all of us.”

Boyce first met Nassar in 1997 at a youth gymnastics program put on by Michigan State University.  Like other girls in the program, Boyce was sent to Nassar anytime she’d pull a muscle, twist an ankle or require some sort of medical treatment.    

“At first, it was normal,” she said. “And then once my parents stopped coming in the room with me, that’s when he started doing the other treatment.”

The other treatment, she and scores of other women now say, involved using his bare fingers to penetrate them.  It didn’t happen once or twice, she says, it happened over and over for two years.

“There were times that he looked like he was aroused, there were times that he would take his belt off, and make grunting noises,” Boyce said.

“Sometimes the light would be off. What doctor takes their belt off during the exam? I was 16, I think I remember him saying it was uncomfortable. So, I said okay.”

It took Boyce weeks to muster up the courage to finally tell her coach. Kathie Klages taught the youth program in East Lansing, and led MSU’s gymnastics team too.

“I told her that I was uncomfortable with what he was doing, his fingers were going inside me,” Boyce recalls. “She responded that I must be reading into what he was doing or misunderstanding what he was doing…Kathie just still couldn’t believe it, her good friend who she thought she knew couldn’t be something like that.”

After talking to other gymnasts, Boyce said she felt ashamed for even bringing it up. She saw Nassar not long after.

“He sat me down and said 'I talked to Kathie, she told me about the conversation.' And I remember saying, ‘I’m sorry, it was a total misunderstanding, I was misreading. I’m sorry,’ ” Boyce said.

“So you apologized to him?” asked Channel 7’s Ross Jones.

“I apologized to him.  And he continued to do it at that appointment, and I remember at that appointment I felt like he was mad at me while he was doing it. It was much more uncomfortable and I thought he was mad at me.”

There’s no evidence that Boyce’s 1997 complaint led to any discipline for Nassar. He continued treating athletes at MSU and elsewhere for the next 19 years, including Tony Guerrerro’s daughter who he started seeing when she was 11. 

“He invited her to his house,” Guerrero said. “He told her not to call the office when she needed an appointment, just text him and he’ll get her right in.”

Guerrero said he always found Nassar to be friendly, but admits he sometimes felt uneasy about the way he touched his daughter.  During one treatment, he secretly snapped a photo while Nassar had his hands near his daughter’s inner thigh.

“He would say he’s aligning her spine and he would move her underwear to the side…and would touch her genital area. Every time,” Guerrero said.

“And did you wonder why this physician is moving your, at the time, 13-year-old daughter’s underwear to the side to adjust her spine?” asked Jones.

“I couldn’t see,” Guerrero responded, adding that his daughter only told him about the alleged contact after Nassar was accused of possession child pornography last year.

Today, Tony’s daughter is one of more than 100 girls and women who say they were sexually assaulted by Nassar and are suing him in civil court. He was fired by MSU in September and has been locked up since December following child pornography charges. Today, he’s also facing charges of criminal sexual conduct.

It’s a small measure of relief for the women like Larissa Boyce who say they are his victims, but still blame themselves.

“I feel really guilty that I didn’t do more, that I didn’t tell anyone else,” she said. “But I can’t put that on myself. I tried to come forward and I was silenced.”

Efforts to reach Coach Kathie Klages through her attorney were unsuccessful, but in the past she has denied  allegations that she ignored complaints about Nassar and insists that the safety of her gymnasts was always her first priority.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.